About creating shifts

Creating shifts is easy, but creating good shifts requires a lot of thought. This page explains more about how to create shifts in WFM and what to consider in order to create good shifts.

Rules sets and shift bags

The shifts are generated based on the rules in the rule sets. The rules define possible start and end times, the duration of the shifts and the activities included in the shifts. The activities are any activities that the automatic scheduling should add, both skill activities and non-skill activities, like breaks, lunches and admin tasks. The length and the position of these activities in the working day is an important consideration. The rules also define when the shift can be used and when it cannot be used.

Shift bags are generally built to suit a certain group of agents, for example full-time agents with a certain type of work. Each agent is assigned a shift bag, which is a collection of shifts including one or more rule sets.

A rule set can be used in more than one shift bag and the same shift bag can be allocated to multiple agents.

Purpose of the shifts

The shifts in the agent's shift bag are the available shifts to use for automatic scheduling and optimization. The scheduling and optimization processes will select the best possible shift from the shift bag for each day and agent. This selection has two main focuses; to improve the staffing levels as much as possible and to fulfill all rules. The rules to fulfill are scheduling rules, contract rules and any restrictions, like agent preferences, rotations or availability.

The number of shifts in the shift bag affects the performance of the scheduling and optimization processes. Therefore, carefully consider the complexity of the rule sets and shift bags you create. You want enough variety within the shift bag to provide flexibility, but also to keep the number of shifts in the shift bag down to not slow down the scheduling and optimization processes.

Before creating shifts

There are a lot of things to consider before creating rule sets and generating work shifts to be used in automatic scheduling.

  • The open hours of the workloads and the forecasted demand on the skills during those hours, providing information on when agents need to be scheduled and on which activities.
  • The contracts, part-time percentages and information on which days agents are working, providing information on the length of the agents' shifts and information on rest rules such as the weekly and nightly rest time agents are entitled to.
  • Laws or company policies stating for example how often the agents must have short breaks or how long the lunch break must be.
  • The level of flexibility that can be built into the schedule. For example, if agents can have staggered start times that can be optimized according to demand levels.

While creating shifts

When creating shifts, keep it simple and keep the number of shifts down. If needed, you can quickly add more shifts.

Grouping shifts

A good starting point when creating shifts is to divide the working day into smaller units using shift categories. For example, early, day, late and night.

We recommend creating small rule sets with a clear purpose. Check the number of shifts in the rule set. If the number of shifts in the rule set is large, consider splitting the rule set into to two rule sets. The number of shifts in the shift bag is shown to the left of the rule set's name on the General tab.

Keep the number of rule set iterations as low as possible for optimal performance in the scheduling process. One way of doing that is to group common shift lengths with common lunch break lengths.

EXAMPLE   A shift length of 7-8 hours requires a 30-minute lunch and shifts longer than that requires a 1-hour lunch. Separate the shift length groupings into two different rule sets to keep the number of iterations low.

Naming conventions

An important consideration is the naming conventions. WFM will list the rule sets in alphabetical order. Keep a clean naming convention to make it easier to distribute the rule sets to different shift bags.

EXAMPLE   Include Shift Category, Shift Type, Activity Type, Shift Length (AM, Early, Phone, 8-10h).

The naming convention for shift bags is also a key consideration in order to make the system easier to use in the future.

EXAMPLE   Name shift bags based on location and working length; London Part Time and London Full Time.

Positioning of activities

Activities can be positioned within the shifts in different ways. They can be positioned with an absolute start time or relative to the start of the shift. When using those parameters, try to keep to the same type when positioning multiple activities to avoid confusion.

The auto position function can be used to automatically position short breaks on either side of lunch breaks.

Remove shifts with unwanted combinations of activities

Use limitations to remove shifts with unwanted combinations of activities.

EXAMPLE   There is only 15 minutes of phone time between a short break and the lunch in some shifts. Add a limitation to avoid these shifts. Set the limitation to only keep shifts where the phone activity is greater than or equal to the desired length of time, such as 45 minutes.

Control when shifts can be used

The default rule is that all rule sets can be used on all weekdays. However, if your agents have particular activities on set days of the week, for example an hour of admin on a Monday and Tuesday, you can select which days of the week these rule sets should apply to.

The recommendation is to only use day of week or date limits where it's needed. This is important to avoid restrictions to the scheduling process.

If an agent has shifts in their shift bag that are not applicable, those shifts will never be used in scheduling. This is for example if there are night shifts in the shift bag even though this agent has no skills that are open during nights, or if the agent does not have either the rotation or availability to work such hours.

Therefore, it is possible to use the same shift bag for a group of agents even if there are a few of those agents for whom some of the shifts in the shift bag do not apply.

After scheduling the shifts

The purpose of the scheduling and optimization processes is to achieve the best possible result while fulfilling all work rules and scheduling rules. That gives a lot of factors for the scheduling and optimization to consider when picking shifts from the agents' shift bags. The shifts available in the shift bag are therefore crucial to achieve a good result.

Analyze the result of the optimization carefully to see if there are improvements to be made.

EXAMPLE   There is a period during the afternoon where the staffing is often lower than the rest of the day. Try to understand why that happens. Is there not enough flexibility in the placement of the afternoon short breaks in the shifts? Are the shifts with other placements of the short break not possible to use as that would break some work rule? Or does the optimization pick other shifts to solve more critical staffing issues during other intervals?

The graph and the result view in the Schedules tool will help you analyze the optimization result on different levels and for various parameters. Keep in mind that some of the parameters are only visible on the day or intraday level.

On the intraday level, the colors on the relative difference row in the results view will give a quick and visual indication of what areas to focus on. View this information on a skill by skill basis or combine multiple skills in a skill summary.

Tweak the rule sets in the shift bag or add additional rule sets based on the result of your analysis. Review the predicted service level (PSL) on a daily and interval level. Reoptimize with the new shifts and use the PSL to help you confirm that the changes have had a positive impact on the predicted performance.

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